Westport Island selectmen learned Monday, Charter Communications has requested a contract directly with the town rather than through ConnectME Authority. In April, the town approved seeking a ConnectME broadband infrastructure grant and matching it with funds through the American Rescue Plan and unappropriated surplus. The grant was approved in May and the project is slated to bring broadband to over 200 homes and businesses.
Charter won three of the 20 grants issued by ConnectME Authority in May including Westport Island, Saint George and a group of Aroostook County townships. Broadband Committee member Jason Kates said Charter has assured the committee the terms would be the same as the contract through ConnectME, including the one-year timeline and the proposed rates, but this conversation and draft contract is just the start. He said Charter does not want to deal with state oversight and give up proprietary information and that this same situation is happening with the contracts in Saint George and Aroostook County. Selectman and Broadband Committee member Jeff Tarbox said of the other towns, “we’re in communication with them as well, so that we make sure that we all get the same…and there’s no funny business.”
One of the next steps will be to determine if a new town vote to use the approved funds will be needed. The amounts will stay the same but will instead be going directly to Charter. The board agreed it will need an opinion from Maine Municipal Association and may need a special town meeting. Kates said another complicating factor is Charter is asking for the funds within 30 days of signing the contract.
Tarbox also reported that while there is evidence of a low level of manganese in the water at Wright House, it’s safe for washing and cleaning, it just may leave some discoloration over time. He recommended the history committee have separate drinking water available in the refrigerator.
The board set the 2022 town meeting for June 25. Deputy town clerk Gaye Wagner announced that the delayed Maine Bicentennial celebration for Lincoln County will begin this weekend with tours at the History Center on Sunday and a new exhibit at the History Center. There will be a 2 p.m. Aug. 17 public hearing on a ramp and float for Willis Point Road.
Selectmen meet Mondays at 7 p.m. at the town office.